WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will demand that BP create a special account with "substantial" reserves to pay Gulf oil claims and is readying aid packages for the region, his top political adviser said Sunday.
Obama, set to visit the Gulf Coast on Monday and Tuesday, also plans an Oval Office address Tuesday night after his return to Washington. He meets at the White House with BP executives, including the oil company's chairman, on Wednesday.
"This is an ongoing crisis, much like an epidemic," David Axelrod told NBC's "Meet the Press."
BP's board was to meet on Monday to discuss deferring its second-quarter dividend and putting the money into escrow until the company's liabilities from the spill are known.
'Hold them accountable'
"Our mission is to hold them accountable in every appropriate way," Axelrod said.
The White House wants an independent, third party to administer the escrow account and compensate those with "legitimate" claims for damages, he said. The amount of money set aside will be part of the White House discussions, but Axelrod said it should be "substantial."
In addition, the Obama administration will announce several aid packages and the president will make clear in his meeting Wednesday with BP's chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, and others about his expectation of BP's responsibility for caring for people affected by the spill.
"They're responsible for it and want to make sure that they meet that responsibility," Axelrod said, adding that Obama believes BP has a legal and moral obligation.
In the meeting, Obama is set to follow the example of some Gulf states, which aim to put the squeeze on the company amid talk of the possibility that BP eventually may file for bankruptcy.
The attorney general in Florida and the state treasurer in Louisiana already have said they want BP to put billions in escrow accounts for claim payments.
"I really don't care how they do it, whether they set up an escrow account or not," said Gov. Bob Riley, R-Ala.
"But we have to do something. If you look at what's going on with the economy and the state of Alabama and Mississippi, Louisiana, and now Florida, we're going to have to have some level of compensation, because our tourist season here is essentially from Memorial Day to Labor Day. And with the beaches the way they are this morning, it's going to be very, very difficult to sustain the economic balance that we've had in the past," he told CNN's "State of the Union."
Asked who might receive compensation — oil workers unable to work because there's no deepwater drilling, stores without shoppers, hotels without guests, fishermen without clean water to fish, states without expected revenue — Riley replied, "Everyone of them. ... I don't think there is a dividing line. I don't think you can say that one group is going to get it and another one doesn't."
The administration's point man for the oil spill said federal officials may appoint an organization outside BP to administer the escrow fund.
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen told CBS' "Face The Nation" that discussions will focus on an outside contractor to run the account and ensure that claims are handled more quickly than they are now.
"We've been very concerned about the claims process," he said. "This is not a core function of an oil producing company."
Allen said he is not concerned that BP will go bankrupt and be unable to pay the damage claims.
"They're a company that has got a lot of wealth inside it," he said. "I don't think that's a consideration."
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